How To Avoid Distracted Driving: Super Guide!
Let’s face it, I’m sure we can all think of times where we have been distracted whilst driving. Whether this is due to our phone ringing, kids arguing in the back seat, or spotting something unexpected at the side of the road. But distracted driving can be incredibly dangerous. Any activity that diverts your attention from driving safely, whether this is talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, or talking to passengers, causes you to fall victim to distracted driver.
Did you know that simply reading a text message takes your eyes off the road for around 5 seconds? This may not seem like much, but at 55mph, this is the equivalent of driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed. Suddenly, 5 seconds sounds a lot more significant.
Driving requires the full attention of the driver at all times. Despite this, a recent survey of 11,000 drivers in England found that 1 in 6 drivers were engaged in a distracting activity such as talking on the phone or to a passenger, or smoking.
Too many fatalities and casualties
There are thousands of casualties and fatalities on Britain’s road every year. Yet, around 75% of all road accidents can be entirely blamed on human error. By applying some extra care and common sense, the majority of these accidents could be prevented.
So how can you ensure that you don’t fall victim to distracted driving? There are steps that you can take to make it more likely that you’ll keep your attention on the road at all times. Many of these may sound like common sense but abiding by these simple guidelines can help to keep you and everyone else on the road safe and sound.
Turn off your phone
How many times more likely is it that a driver will have an accident if they are using their phone?
It's much, MUCH more likely!
Turning off your mobile phone is a sure-fire way to make your driving safer. If you hear the tell-tale ‘ding’ of a text message, it is so tempting to just have a quick glance down to see who it’s from. Even if your phone is on silent, it is still a temptation to have a quick check when you’re stopped at the traffic lights or in slow moving traffic. Mobile phone use in cars causes distraction and means that you are taking your eyes off the road, slowing down your reaction time to any hazards that may appear in the road. Texting and driving is a big no no. It's much safer to take the decision to switch your phone off before you start driving.
If you need to have your phone available for emergencies, then the best thing to do is invest in a hands-free device so that you can still take calls when absolutely necessary. This is still a distraction, but much less distracting (and less illegal!) than using your phone as usual while driving. When possible, it is always much safer to look for somewhere to pull over and speak on your phone.
Mobile phone use is actually the second most common driving distraction. The top distracting behaviour is simply being ‘lost in thought’. When you drive the same way to and from work, twice a day, five days a week, it is easy to let your thoughts wander as you travel the familiar route. Most people can think of a time when they have driven somewhere and realise that there is a part of the journey that they don’t remember at all. This is due to driver’s minds wandering as they perform a routine task of driving on familiar roads.
This can be dangerous as it means that you are not alert to any possible differences in the usual route, such as roadworks, or to hazards in the road, such as that cyclist who could suddenly swerve in front on you. Try and keep your attention focussed on the road at all times. If you have something on your mind, try and put it out of your thoughts whilst you are driving. Once you have arrived safely at your destination, you can start mulling over those issues again at your leisure.
Don't drive if you're tired
If you’re tired, you may find that you are generally more easily distracted. It is always best not to drive if you’re feeling tired. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep if you know you will be driving the next day. If necessary, pull over and have a quick nap before continuing with your drive.
Talking of lack of sleep, young children can be a significant distraction in the back seat of the car. Squabbling siblings can easily take your mind off the road. Even one child on their own can be distracting with constant calls of ‘mum, mum’, gradually increasing in volume! Have a think in advance about how you can keep your kids entertained and happy while you’re driving. Have a stash of toys and colouring books available in the car for them to use. You can get pouches to hang on the back of the front seats to store everything away neatly and tidily when not in use.
Don't get distracted by your children or pets
Any kind of cognitive distraction is dangerous while you're driving. It is vital that you always check that your children are securely fastened into appropriate car seats. But perhaps you hadn’t considered how to secure your pets when they are travelling with you. An enthusiastic dog hanging its head out the passenger window with its tongue hanging out (and maybe even wearing sunglasses!) may look like a fun way of travelling with man’s best friend. But this could be seriously distracting and dangerous.
Having a dog poking its head out of a car window could be dangerous to the dog and is distracting to other road users. If the dog decides it is bored of doing this and wants your attention, it could easily distract you from driving if its seated on the passenger seat with no restraint. Ultimately if you are involved in a road accident, pets that are not secured are at risk of seriously inuring themselves or others in the vehicle. Make sure that you always secure your pets well using an appropriate method of restraint before you set off driving.
So, you’ve switched your phone off, your kids are entertained and fastened in their car seats, and your dog is secured. What else could possibly distract you from being an entirely attentive driver? Hmmm... did you eat breakfast before you set off on the school run today? Is that a cereal bar that you’re considering eating as you drive along?
Eating and drinking while driving is a big no no
Think again. Eating and drinking while driving is one of the top ten reasons why people find themselves being distracted drivers. Glancing down to pick up a cup or taking your hands off the wheel to remove a wrapper takes your attention away from the road. Drinking hot drinks while driving is particularly dangerous. If you have to brake suddenly, you could find yourself burning your legs or hands if you spill the drink. Take the time to grab something to eat either before you set off or once you have safely arrived at your destination.
Smoking at the wheel? Forget about it!
The same goes for smoking. This is also one of the top ten reasons for people being distracted while driving. Make sure you take a smoking break before or after you drive. Taking your hands off the wheel, and your mind off the road, makes driving much more dangerous for yourself, your passengers and everyone else on the road.
Set up your sat nav before you leave
Finally, another suspect guilty of distracting drivers on a regular basis is the sat nav. Always set up your route on the sat nav before you set off. If you need to change it mid-journey, make sure you pull over and stop the car to do so.
Beware of the radio in your car
You may be thinking, ‘that’s fine, I don’t use the sat nav, I’m a genius with directions and always know exactly where I’m going’. But I bet you do listen to the radio in the car. Whether you listen to a radio station, put in a new CD, or connect your phone up to the car speakers, music is something the most drivers enjoy listening to on their journeys. However, this is a primary cause of distracted driving. Looking down to change the radio station or skip a track takes vital seconds that could mean the difference between avoiding a collision and being involved in a road traffic accident.
Climate controls are another distraction to avoid
Radio controls are not the only issue. 63% of drivers have admitted to fiddling with the car’s radio, air con or entertainment system whilst driving. Climate controls, such as the heating or air con system, make our journeys much more comfortable whatever the season. However, adjusting these is yet another distraction that drivers must avoid. Make sure you find a cosy temperature for your car before you set off.
Distracted driving leads to many injuries and deaths on the roads each year. This is not only dangerous for drivers and passengers. Pedestrians are also becoming more at risk from distracted drivers. There are many distractions that seek to tempt driver’s attention away from the road. It is difficult to avoid, particularly on boring commutes or long journeys. But follow the tips we have suggested, and you will be on the road to becoming a much safer driver.